One doesn't need to be a top-class industry analyst to notice that the sales of smart phones is currently exploding. These devices are simply everywhere. Shops are plastered with iPhones and Android phones. The word is that suppliers and manufacturers have difficulties coping with demand. Good times for smartphone makers, I suppose…

Although I guess that Android will grab the larger market share in the long run, the Apple iPhone has presently the edge. Apple is clearly the leader, not only in sales, but more importantly in design and technology, as well as in being the most expensive. And what do the other competitors do? Follow the leader, of course.

As a consequence, one can find a growing number of "i-phony" applications that make your device look like an iPhone. The must have ingredients are: 1) jewel case look – shiny multi-coloured icons on a matt black background, 2) finger-tip sized GUI elements (retire your stylus), and 3) sliding dynamics that allow users to pan and scroll virtual sceens across the display without scroll bars.

The old adage says: "If you can't make it, fake it." If you happen to own a device with an aging operating system, such as Symbian or Windows Mobile, there are ways to jazz up your phone without shelling out half a month's salary for a new smart phone. SPB's Mobile Shell 3.5, for example, will give your Pocket PC or phone a new coat of paint. It can't magically transform your device into an iPhone, but it's as "i-phony" as it gets without actually copying the Apple look.

Pocket PCs Suck!

Pocket PCs suck! Well, they do at least suck when they don’t work as they are supposed to. …which is pretty often in my experience. To be fair, I must say that Pocket PCs are great as long as they do work. Since a Pocket PC is like a miniature computer, it offers a functional range and programmability that surpasses almost any other mobile device. Unfortunately, this leads to complexity, and complexity leads to bugs which in turn leads to malfunctioning devices. I’ve been using Pocket PCs for two years now and have developed sort of a love-hate relationship. Probably the culprit is the Windows Mobile operating system. Windows Mobile, although already in version 6, evokes bad memories of the buggy Microsoft operating systems of the nineties. Only that this isn’t the nineties. After ten or fifteen years of consumer mobile phones, we have come to expect mobile devices to work flawlessly. In fact, I am relying on my Pocket PC for many day-today tasks. I use it as a phone, alarm clock, notepad, camera, phone book, and mp3 player and more. My HP iPaq Business Navigator also has an assisted GPS, but I came to see the latter as a toy function. Due to usability issues I hardly bother to fiddle with it.

However, the question I am asking myself now is – isn’t this device just an expensive toy? Where is the robustness that should come with a “business” device . I have put in a good deal of time just to keep my pocket PC working. My HP PPC has seen the service shop twice, once because of a faulty memory chip, and another time because it didn’t boot anymore until the shop installed a firmware upgrade. In addition to that, I have spent a fair number of hours with configuration and trouble-shooting because one or another function was broken. Once I get a working configuration with all the software installed, I use Spb Backup to create a complete backup of the system. Spb Backup is a real life-saver. It backs up all configuration data, user data, applications and system data. Should the device give up its ghost or display odd behaviour (believe me, every Pocket PC will do that at some point), I can perform a factory reset and restore the backup to recreate the former status of the device easily. But even with this tool, the amount of maintenance required seems a little excessive. A gadget that carries the name “Business Navigator” should be expected to work like a business device, namely reliably. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for the HP iPaq and neither for the other Pocket PCs I’ve owned and used. As previously mentioned, I am not blaming the hardware manufacturers. The OS seems to be the crux.

Real business users would probably be better off with a smartphone that requires less messing around. A Pocket PC is more suited to -shall I put it this way- the technically inclined person.